To flush or not to flush

Have you ever thought about whether or not to flush an item down a toilet?

Through our research, we have uncovered what the general population thinks is okay to flush away. We can also reveal some bizarre items that Brits have attempted to flush down the toilet, an issue which could be costing the UK tens of millions of pounds in dealing with blockages. 

Dead pigeons, wedding rings, and a doll’s head were among the items Brits have attempted to flush down the toilet, according to first-hand reports from expert technicians at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene alongside those from our sister business Initial Washroom Hygiene. Other strange items discovered in toilet bowls included shoes, sandwiches, coat hangers, vapes, and even fruits wrapped in condoms.

The knowledge gap between what can and can’t be safely flushed

Despite sewer blockages costing UK water companies around £100 million every year, a survey of over 2,000 consumers that we commissioned found that the majority (60%) admit to flushing items they shouldn’t down the toilet. Dead animals are surprisingly common - nearly one in seven (14%) admitted to previously flushing a deceased pet fish, a number which jumps to 1 in 5 of those surveyed in Scotland (21%).

Chewing gum is also a big issue with twice as many men admitting to flushing it (15%) than women (7%). More than one in eight (13%) think flushing condoms isn’t a problem, and one in ten (10%) it is okay to flush away oil, fat, or grease, a major cause of the fatbergs that block UK drains.

Many UK adults also think it is perfectly fine to flush a variety of household items away, including food wrappers (10%), used beauty products (11%), and nappies (9%).

The flushing of wipes and sanitary products

Our research, also found that 10% of Brits admit to flushing wipes down the toilet, a major cause of sewer blockages that can damage properties, flood roads, and cost £200 million a year.

As you may already be aware The ‘Fine to Flush’ certification is being dropped in 2024, as billions of wet wipes end up in Britain’s waterways and contribute to fatbergs that have become commonplace and reported on in the news, particularly in London’s sewers.

Remarkably, 16% of Londoners do flush these, with almost a third (28%) believing they can do so safely; well above the national average of 11%.

When it comes to period products, nearly a quarter (24%) of female respondents admitted to flushing tampons down the toilet, and a further 7% to flushing sanitary pads. Gen Zers are more likely to believe sanitary pads are fine to flush (37% vs the national average of 15%).

What should you flush?

It’s simple really, in the UK we should not be flushing anything down the loo that isn’t toilet paper, pee, or poo.

Some eye-opening discoveries of people’s toilet flushing and washroom habits!

Our first-hand reports from technicians show the breadth of bizarre items people have attempted to flush down the toilet or have left in washrooms.

10 of the strangest items discovered in a toilet bowl

  1. Shoes
  2. A dolls head
  3. A wedding ring
  4. A dead pigeon
  5. A toy dinosaur
  6. A homework diary
  7. An Easter chocolate rabbit
  8. A remote control
  9. A police cap
  10. A salt and pepper shaker

10 unusual sights seen in a washroom

  1. A hammer covered in blood
  2. A tree growing out of the basin
  3. People having their dinner
  4. A life-size cut out of Max Verstappen
  5. Handcuffs
  6. A cat scratch pole
  7. A candyfloss machine
  8. A portion of fish & chips
  9. A book on sex tips from 1894
  10. A snake

To help ensure that inappropriate items are not flushed down the toilet, business washroom and facilities managers should take responsibility for ensuring that appropriate waste bins are provided, including ones for the disposal of sanitary waste located ideally within the toilet cubicle - i.e. at the point of need.

At Rentokil Specialist Hygiene, we have an expert team of technicians who can provide reliable and professional 24/7 services in the event of a drain problem, including blocked, backed up and exploding drains. Speak to one of our experts today by calling us or getting in touch with us.